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Six Costly College Application Errors

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Errors in college applications can cost students offers of admission or scholarship opportunities. Luckily, most mistakes are preventable—many are the result of procrastination. Students should allow plenty of time to complete necessary college application elements, focus on the details, and stay organized to avoid these common college application errors.

1. Missing Deadlines

Colleges are forced to send rejection letters to highly qualified students each year because those students failed to submit completed applications on time. Students who wait until the last minute to submit online applications run the risk of technical difficulties or delays due to overloaded systems. Students can avoid missing application deadlines by beginning applications early, tracking deadlines, and submitting complete applications at least a few days before the deadline.

2. Careless Errors

Misunderstood questions, poorly written essays, and grammatical errors all undermine an otherwise good application. Typos, spelling mistakes, or word omissions make students appear uninterested or potentially incapable of completing college-level work. Most of these errors result from students rushing to complete applications on time and failing to proofread their work. Students may find that it helps to print a hard copy of online applications in order to review them for errors. It’s also a good idea to ask a trusted friend, counselor, teacher, or parent to check applications for errors.

3. Omitting Required Elements

Some students inadvertently leave an entire section of an application blank, while others fail to submit required documents such as test scores or transcripts. Most colleges will not review a student’s application until it is 100% complete, so omitting even one required element can delay evaluation or result in rejection.

4. Waiting Too Long to Request Letters of Recommendation

Some applications require one or more letters of recommendation. Teachers, counselors, and mentors usually are willing to accommodate requests, but they may need a week or two to write letters or complete application forms. Students should request recommendations as early as possible and provide recommenders with all the information necessary to complete and submit the letters. It is customary to allow two full school weeks for teachers and counselors to complete recommendations; during peak times, more time may be necessary.

5. Failing to Confirm Receipt of All Application Elements

Many students assume that once they’ve submitted applications and requested transcripts, test scores, and recommendations, they are done. However, from time to time, required application elements do not make it to a student’s file in the admissions office. A week or two after submitting their applications, students should follow up to confirm that all of their required elements have been received. Some colleges allow students to check the status of their applications online. Whether by checking the college’s website or calling the admissions office, students should confirm their applications are complete.

6. Forgetting to Submit Payment

Sometimes, in the excitement of completing all the essays, short answers, and background data, students overlook a key step—submitting the application fee. Colleges and universities will not process a student’s application without payment. Students should confirm that their application fee payment was processed as part of verifying that their application is complete.

High schools and colleges used to send records by mail, but with the increased popularity of online applications, most institutions now send transcripts, test scores, and recommendations electronically.  Students should make sure to provide correct information to their high school counselor so electronic submissions can be received accurately by all colleges on their lists.

Applying to undergraduate or graduate programs can be time-consuming and stressful. In the process of writing essays and submitting test scores and transcripts, students may overlook key factors. By avoiding these six common application errors, students can apply on time and be evaluated on their accomplishments rather than lose out on an opportunity due to errors, procrastination, or missing information.

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